Four Books You’ll Love

March 9, 2015

March 2015 Books16

By Gabrielle With photo assistance by Rose Gluck.

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve done a book post, but I think today is the perfect day for some picture book recommendations! Here are four new titles that have been a hit at our house.

First up, Polar Bear’s Underwear. It was written and illustrated by Tupera Tupera, the Tokyo-based art and design firm of artists Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa. This book is perfect for the five and under set. Polar Bear can’t find his new underwear, so he starts hunting for them with the help of Mouse. Are they those pretty patterned ones? No. That tiny, colorful pair? I’m afraid not.

March 2015 Books17 March 2015 Books18

Your little readers will encounter all sorts of creatures on the underwear hunt, and will laugh at the twist at the end!

March 2015 Books13

Next up, is this beautiful book about a real life con man. It’s called Tricky Vic — The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. I received this as an early review copy, but the book will be out tomorrow! This is a fun one for older kids — it has lots of history, new vocabulary, and factoids built in. If your family is a fan of heist stories, then this is sure to become a new favorite.

March 2015 Books14 March 2015 Books15

It was written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli — an author, illustrator and screen printer from Philadelphia. I don’t know Greg, but based on his clever mix-media illustrations in the book, thing he must have a great sense of humor.

Keep reading for two more books!


A Few Things

March 6, 2015

Red Banners

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Are you ready for the weekend? Ours should be an exciting one! Tomorrow Betty is getting baptized, and it’s also Ben Blairs birthday! My mom is in town for the baptism, and we’re excited to have local friends and family gather for this little event. Mormon kids typically get baptized when they’re 8, and Betty turned 8 last May, but we weren’t able to get this on the calendar till now. Hah! She’s been so patient about all the delays. Betty is seriously such a sweetheart.

This is one of those extra-celebratory weeks for our family, because Maude also had a birthday on Wednesday! She’s 16 now and I can hardly believe it. She is a delight to parent.

Gosh I like our kids.

Anyway, I’ve got quite a list I’m hoping to tackle as we prep for tomorrow’s gathering, so I’m going to sign off now. But before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Love has no labels.

- Today is the perfect day to learn more about this important movie called Honor Diaries.

- This amazing flat iron is on sale for $38. (It’s usually $200!). It gets fantastic reviews and I just ordered one.

- Speaking of hair, here are tips for tangle free toddler hair.

- Did you see these clever “unskippable” Geico ads?

- 9 things Latinos are tired of explaining to everyone else.

-  Gifts from crows.

- The earliest footage of New York City.

- Ringling Brothers is going to stop using elephants in their shows. I’m glad to hear it!

- Lean In Together! I love this video so much. It brought tears to my eyes. I am incredibly lucky to have good men in my life. My husband, my father, my brothers. Not one of them has ever treated me like I was less than fully capable because of my gender.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Meri Meri Giveaway

March 6, 2015


By Gabrielle.

Happy Friday! Let’s welcome the weekend with a fabulous giveaway. The prize is a $150 to Meri Meri! One visit to their site and you’ll be itching to throw a spring brunch, or an easter egg hunt, or a flower-themed baby shower.

Meri Meri is a long-time sponsor of Design Mom, and I’m a long-time fan of their products. I love the unique paper goods they create, and I especially love that they are completely original!

Meri Meri Easter 2015

Meri Meri is based in the UK and offers a huge range of party supplies — garlands and cake stands and cupcake sets and plates and napkins and platters and gift bags and stationery and boxes for baked goods, and on and on. They’re all about sweet and unusual party themes, and they offer products for every holiday as well.

Take a look at their Easter Collection. You’ll find adorable plates, cups, napkins and accessories that are pretty enough to keep in a scrapbook. With one shopping trip to the Meri Meri website, you’ll have everything you need for your next Spring gathering.

And $150 is plenty to buy everything you need for an amazing event! If I won, I would be tempted by the Happy Easter Cake Topper, the Hip Hop Hooray Cookie Cutters and Cupcake Kit, and the adorable Easter Treat Baskets. Definitely take a look at their wares and get inspired. Easter is only 4 weeks away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


By Gabrielle. Family photo by Blue Lily Photography.

Have you ever been in a position where you were given the advice to just wait? It’s horrible, isn’t it? Especially if you’re waiting for a baby; all that time waiting, in our minds, could be spent on making something happen, and the overwhelming feeling that we’re losing time just waiting is super frustrating. I get it.

If you’re in that waiting mode right now, I really can’t wait for you to meet Kari. She and her husband live in Utah at the base of the stunning American Fork Canyon, with…well…I’ll let her tell you the story. It’s such a good one.

Beautiful story, beautiful family, just ahead.


Ralph & Maude What to Wear 2014-1534

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Here it is! Part three (and the final part) of our What to Wear to School wardrobe posts for 2014-15.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know we typically share these posts in the fall, as the school year begins. But as I mentioned earlier, this year, we didn’t do our wardrobe photoshoots until January! I started processing the photos last month, and I’ve been sharing the tours over the last few weeks.

Ralph & Maude What to Wear 2014-1503 Ralph & Maude What to Wear 2014-1521

Some people have wondered via email how I get my older kids to participate in this series, but honestly it hasn’t been a battle of wills at all. They don’t mind participating, because they end up using the photos a ton throughout the year, and they’ve found that they really love having a record of their wardrobe. And not just the wardrobe, but photos of them wearing the clothes.

When they see the photos, they get instant memories of wearing certain outfits to certain schools. They’ll remember that they picked out a particular shirt or pair of shoes for a trip, or for the first day of school, and they’ll feel nostalgic in the best way. In fact, Ralph said he would be in heaven if Ben Blair and I had a similar record of our wardrobes as kids and as teenagers. He eats stuff like that up — he loves looking at our old yearbooks and any family album he can get his hands on.

Ralph & Maude What to Wear 2014-1501 Ralph & Maude What to Wear 2014-1522

So anyway, all that is to say that I hope this is great content for you — I received a ton of hopeful emails in the fall asking if I would be doing the posts this year, so I’m crossing my fingers that many of you are glad to see these posts even if it’s almost Spring now. But I also create this content with my kids in mind. I know they love it.

Ready for the wardrobe tour? Let’s get started.

Click here for five full outfits for each of them.


How to display your Photo Booth Strips.

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Raise your hand if you have photos or artwork hanging around your house that you’ve meant to frame for weeks. (Or months. Or years!) Ahh. I see that many of you are in the same boat as me. Custom framing is one of those tasks that just seems intimidating and complicated. If I go into a shop, I know it’s not going to be a quick errand, and I’m going to need advice/opinions on the style, so I’ll want to bring a buddy with me. Also, I’m going to have a hard time picturing the framed piece on the wall where it will actually hang, and ultimately it will be stressful to pull the trigger on materials and mat size. So I end up just putting it off.

For example, my sister Jordan has a photo booth, and one Sunday afternoon not long after we moved here, we stopped by her studio to have some photo booth fun. Each of us took a bunch of turns, and I had a vague idea that I would collect one strip of each kid, and one strip of Ben Blair & me, and I would frame them all together to make a casual snapshot of our family. For 18 months, those photo strips sat on a windowsill in our kitchen waiting for some attention. And today, I’m partnering with Framebridge to tell about how I finally framed them!

The thing that amazed me is how simple it was. Truly, it couldn’t have been easier. My first thought was to mail the photo strips (yes, Framebridge will totally frame original artwork — and they’ll give you a quick ship label to get the original to them pronto), and have them each framed individually. But then, I decided I wanted them all in one frame. So I decided to scan them and then upload the file instead. It took seconds. And the brilliant thing is that once it was uploaded, I could try it out with different frames and mats to see how it would look. I chose a simple, modern frame, but they have tons of options. So cool! Being able to see it fully framed made it much easier to make a decision on color and style. Plus, I could walk with my laptop to the room where I wanted to hang it and get a better idea of how it would look in the space once it was framed.

Of course the digital upload option would be ideal for any of the thousands of photos that are hanging out on my hard drive at the moment. (I’m guessing you have a stockpile of digital photos too?)

How to display your Photo Booth Strips.

The framed piece arrived about a week later. The packaging kept it well protected and it arrived in perfect condition. Framebridge included a little bag with a note and a brass picture hanging hook+nail inside. I grabbed a hammer and the project was hung in an instant. They seriously made the whole process as easy and painless as possible from beginning to end. If you’d like to give it a try, you’re in luck. Framebridge is offering 20% off on 2+ items to all Design Mom readers! Use the promo code DESIGNMOM.

How to display your Photo Booth Strips.

Framebridge feels like a discovery to me. When I realized how truly easy it was to use their service, I looked at the stack of artwork in my studio in a whole different light. And my digital photos too! All those family photos we’ve had taken and I’ve never gotten around to getting framed. I’ve finally found a solution that will work perfectly for me! I’m thinking framed photos to send to grandparents for Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day and all the other holidays too. : )

Speaking of grandparents, I actually have a tender spot for custom-framing. My father was a public school teacher, but on the side, he ran a custom-framing business from our basement. I loved watching him work and remember the super loud screech/thunk as the pieces of frame were sliced at an angle. I still have a few of the pieces he framed hanging in my house!


This post is brought to you by Framebridge. Get 20% off 2+ items with the promo code DESIGNMOM! Code expires on 3/30.


By Gabrielle.

I love when dads write to me and ask about the possibility of a home tour. There have only been two thus far, but I’m always hoping to hear from different voices; it keeps things fresh! So a special thank you to Derek for adding his outlook today.

There’s so much in this tour that interests me, from the attempt to acclimate to a completely new culture and its design as newlyweds in Tokyo, to the exclusion they felt as a mixed-race couple, and their basic yet beautiful way they now view parenting and home. (Not to be a spoiler, but they both boil down to love.) I really hope you enjoy this fresh perspective and home tour! Welcome, Derek!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: Hello! I’m Derek. Our home consists of me and my wife, Erika, and our son Frederick. And our goldfish, Fillet!

Erika is an academically trained photojournalist with an eye for beauty. She is the emotional and spiritual leader of the family, and her smile can brighten up even the darkest room. She is also known to hold concerts in the shower.

I’m Derek, an Aerospace Engineer by day and a homegrown bicycle builder and recycler by night. I try to breathe new life into bicycles that have once been forgotten. I’m the one who got Erika back on a bike, and that is one of my greatest accomplishments!

Frederick is our gift. An energetic, lovable, and creative playtime instigator, whose love and intelligence brings us joy and amazement on a daily basis…he is perfect.

We lovingly consider ourselves sort of like the Three Musketeers.  As a family, we love the outdoors – so much so that we took Frederick camping as soon as he turned three months old. We love music, delicious food, travel, and exploring. We do our very best to fill our house with love. We believe in tickle torture, sprinkled with lots and lots of hugs and kisses. We have been described as artsy, but we would probably just say that we love colorful and beautiful creativity.

As parents, we see ourselves as the legs of a ladder built just for our son. We’re hoping that our love as parents helps develop an endless number of steps that will provide Frederick the chance to reach beyond the stars.

Avocado and lemon trees make for the best backyards!


Nova Natural Giveaway

March 2, 2015

Nova Natural Wooden Excavator

By Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Who’s in the mood for a giveaway? I’ve got a great one for you today. You could win a $150 store credit to Nova Natural!!

Nova Natural is one of my new sidebar sponsors, and I’m delighted to tell you about them, because I know you’ll love their wares. Nova Natural is all about raising kids in the most wholesome way possible. Think hand made wooden play sets, soft dolls, and the best eco-friendly art supplies. Think teething, mealtime and bath time products that don’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. Think products to help your child learn — crafts, books and music. They offer fun products for the home as well.

Nova Natural Hammock Nova Natural Fair Maiden Dress

Their wooden vehicles might be my favorite — they have a huge selection — but I’m also way into these hammock hideaways. I’ve bookmarked this princess dress for June’s next birthday, and I know my kids would love the beading loom as well.

Nova Natural Enamelware Dishes Nova Natural Wooden Beading Loom Nova Natural Beeswax Crayons

Based in Vermont, I love their clear mission statement:

  • Inspire creativity by sparking the imaginations of children and adults with materials that allow them to learn and grow together.
  • Connect communities by bringing people together to play, create and explore in families, neighborhoods and across the globe.
  • Practice sustainability by Working with small businesses and artisans to supply families with heirloom quality, non-disposable toys that support healthy lifestyles in balance with the environment.

Nova Natural is such a terrific source for heirloom toys your kids will love now, and that you’ll be able to hold on to for grandkids as well! Something new: For this giveaway, I’m trying Rafflecopter. It’s a first for Design Mom. I hope it makes it easier for you to enter!.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Gabrielle Blair strawberry

By Gabrielle. Photo by Kristen Loken.

When I was in Salt Lake City in January, I was getting my hair done at the hotel spa, and the stylist and I started chatting about facials. She’s a huge fan of facials and tries to schedule one every month. It’s her big luxury/splurge. I was nodding along and thinking Yes! Facials! Amazing! The Best!, when I suddenly laughed at myself because I’ve never had a facial and don’t even have a clear idea of what actually happens during a facial.

From what I understand they can involve massage, steaming, exfoliating, masks, clearing of pores, and I’m not sure what else. I’ve also heard sometimes they take a long time, like an hour or more. I’m quite fascinated by the time factor, because that seems like a lot of minutes to spend on one not-that-big area of the body. Though I’m sure it makes sense while it’s happening,

Now, I’m not opposed to facials in anyway, nor am I opposed to whatever beauty routines or rituals that help you feel fantastic. And I’ve tried quite a few over the years. Hair stuff like color, cuts, and blowouts — even perms! And stuff like mani-pedis, waxing, and tinted brows. I’ve even tried laser hair removal, and as a teenager, I totally tried tanning beds. So I was surprised to realize I’d never booked a facial. I’m surprised again as I type this!

Then I remembered when I first met my sister-in-law, Lisa. Manicures came up and she told me she’d never had paint on her fingernails. I don’t know if that’s still true, but I remember being almost shocked. Never had your nails painted?!!! (Of course, someone reading this post is probably thinking, “Never had a facial?!!!”)

That made me wonder, what grooming/beauty appointments have you never scheduled? Maybe from simple disinterest, or maybe because you feel moral opposition to a certain beauty task? Is there anything you assumed you would do, and have been surprised you haven’t tried? Maybe you thought you’d color your greys, but never have?Also, on facials, what’s your take? Do you see a big difference in your skin when you get one? Or is it one of those more subtle things where you just feel better for doing it. I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Speaking of grooming, I had another hair appointment on Saturday and I’m platinum! You can see a peek on Instagram. I’m trying to put a fun photoshoot together that will show off the new do, and then I’ll write up a post about the whole process.


A Few Things

February 27, 2015

Treehouse Dining Area

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? It was a good one at our house. Nothing too exciting, just the daily satisfying kind of stuff. (I love that stuff!) Next week will be busier — we have two birthdays coming up, plus a baptism. And it’s time to think about Easter plans as well, because it happens really early in April this year, and I know it’s going to catch me off guard if I wait till the end of the month. (Been there, done that.) If you need some inspiration, I put a whole bunch of Spring & Easter projects in the sidebar.

I’m have some appointments today, so I’m heading out of the office soon, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Adopted as a Child, Now a Mother, Finally ‘Lucky’.

- This Onion article made me laugh.

- Oh no! Women are leaving the tech industry. Thanks, Allysha.

- Start Again. You are bound to be successful.

- Alt Keynotes! The videos from the Alt Winter Keynotes are ready to view. You can see Lisa Congdon‘s inspiring story, my entrepreneurial Q&A with Jess Lee & Susan Petersen, and Dallas Clayton‘s closing presentation that had everyone in tears. Really good stuff!

- My Aunt Robin shared this ad about PTSD guide dogs and I found it so impactful.

- A movie theater with a mission.

- Do you use Pinterest? Here’s a really good article about their new changes.

- Buying diapers on a budget.

- I’m not even sure how to comprehend this story.

- Have you ever tried to peel an egg like this?

- My sister-in-law, Margaret Blair Young’s Kickstarter is going so well! You can get in on the action here.

- I introduced a hashtag on Instagram this week and it has created the most delightful feed! Look up #DMlivingwithkids and see what I mean. Oh. And tag your own photos too — I’ll be sharing one or two each day.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend. We greet March on Sunday — that means Spring is on its way! For those of you who are up to your ears in snow and ice, I hope you the thaw begins asap. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Which Box Do You Mark?

February 26, 2015

National Geographic Changing Faces of America

By Gabrielle. Portraits by Martin Schoeller for National Geographic.

Last year, I was at the Mom 2.0 conference, and Karen Walrond (you might know her as Chookooloonks), and I had a discussion about how she felt about the term “black”. She said she prefers it, because she’s not from Africa and doesn’t identify as an African-American. She would be fine being called Caribbean-American because she grew up in Trinidad, but Caribbean-American doesn’t seem to be a common usage term.

I was thinking of that conversation as I filled out a survey from our school district this week. The survey asked what race or ethnicity my children identified as. And since we live in Oakland, and since Oakland is unusually diverse, there were like 20 options to choose from, or you could fill in your own. I checked the “white” box.

Checking that box reminded me of a conversation my high schoolers had with me not long after we moved here. When we registered, we learned the high school was 10% white, and wondered if our kids would stand out for their whiteness. After a few weeks, our kids said their classmates were curious, but it wasn’t about our kids’ whiteness, it was because they aren’t some sort of combo. Apparently, much of the student body at the high school identifies as multi-cultural or dual-race. Their friends and classmates are Chinese+German, or Filipino+Mexican, or Vietnamese+Arabic, or African-American+Balinese. Our kids felt boring being white+white.

My kids asked if we were really just white and I felt apologetic. Hah! I told them my dad’s side is Jewish, and reminded them my older brother is a Navajo. I asked them if that helped, but no, that didn’t really change things. So I went back further. I told them their ancestors came from Scotland and Sweden, from England and Germany. But no, that didn’t help either. At the end of the day, they still felt like white+white.

Something about it feels like progress to me — I mean them feeling out of the ordinary being white+white. It hints at a future where everyone is so mixed together that we get to choose what culture we want to identify with, which culture we want to celebrate, instead of having it, and all of its baggage, assigned to us at birth. It also aligns with what my kids have been taught in their high school biology classes: there is no such thing as race at a biological level. It doesn’t exist except in our heads. It reminds me of the National Geographic article about the changing faces of America.

Thinking about this also reminds me of how much America really is a melting pot. When I lived in Normandy, my local friends simply identified as French. But here, almost anyone I talk to identifies as an American, plus also as some additional ancestry.

And now I’m curious. Do you identify with a particular culture or race or ethnicity? What box do you mark when you’re surveyed? Or, if you don’t live in America, are you ever asked to mark a race/ethnicity box? Do you ever get mistaken for being a race or nationality that you are not? How about your kids? Do they identify differently than you do? And if you’re black and live here in the U.S., but grew up in a non-African country, how often are you called African-American by mistake? Or do you not read it as a mistake and think of the term African-American in another way?

P.S. — I’m unclear on how to make it happen, but I would LOVE to have more diversity among the Call It A Day and Growing A Family and Living With Kids series here on Design Mom. Whatever your race or ethnicity or nationality, I hope you will feel welcome to share your stories here! We want to hear your voices! It would be amazing if this blog reflected the very diverse community I see around me every day. 


Design Mom Book: Cover Design

February 25, 2015


By Gabrielle. Photos by me and Sarah Hebenstreit.

As promised, here’s a post about how the cover design came to be for the Design Mom Book. (Did I mention you can pre-order it now?) It started with an email. My editor, Lia Ronnen, sent me a photo — black hands in a pattern — and wondered what I thought about it for a cover idea. It was so striking! I loved it immediately. I had known I wanted a cover photo that did not show an interior space, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to use instead. The hand pattern idea was perfect! It was graphically interesting, made sense with kids, and felt timeless to me. So I started experimenting with handprints and hand outlines to see what might work.

Design Mom Book June Printing

Eventually, I decided to use actual handprints from each of my kids — I loved the idea of each print being imperfectly made with real paint. I bought a giant roll of white paper, the kind you use as a backdrop in photo shoots, and a few tubes of black paint. Then we cleared space between the sofas and the kitchen table, rolled out the paper and got to work. By the way, this all happened last summer — it was July.

Keep reading to learn about the whole process, and for lots of behind-the-scenes photos!


By Gabrielle.

Choosing to downsize from a large home in the suburbs to a much tinier space is probably not as difficult to handle when the much tinier space is in huge by anyone’s standards New York City! I think it would be the best kind of challenge, right? Keeping only what you love, organizing vertically by use, and ruthlessly overthinking every purchase. And the minute you feel a bit claustrophobic, Central Park is one block away. Marvelous.

I love this peek into Caryn’s small space and big thoughts. I’ve read it three times, and I find something new with each read. I hope you do, too. Welcome, Caryn!

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hello! We are a family of four. Mark is the solitary male of our home, who is actually quite fond of hot pink. He is a designer for a tech company, and has a passion for beautifully designed things ranging from type and furniture to letter openers, and salt and pepper shakers.

Our older daughter is almost three. She has a zest for life and would dance through it if opportunity allowed. Her height and vocabulary often fool people into thinking she is older, and she lives for social activities, working her charms on every person she can get near.

Our younger daughter is nearly one and is still quite a mystery to us. She has the biggest blue eyes anyone has ever seen and is already incredibly active, risky, and vocal. She is a snuggler and has a smile always at the ready. She is just beginning to walk, determined to figure everything out and taste it along the way too.

Finally there is me, Caryn. I am the wife, the mom, the cook, the book addict, the blogger, and the illustrator. I firmly believe bookstores are my Kryptonite, and I have an unhealthy obsession with stripes, polka dots, picture books, and French food philosophy.

Such smart small space solutions, straight ahead!


By Gabrielle. Video by Ralph Blair.

Last month, you may remember that Ben Blair and Ralph went to Haiti to help with the launch of Haiti Partners’ Language Hangouts, and to capture footage for an announcement video. Well, I’m delighted to share the video with you today! The program is officially launched, and Haiti Partners is ready to sign up anyone who’d like to volunteer a half hour of their time to video-chat in English.

The basic program is that you sign up to speak with someone for 1/2 hour per week for eight weeks. You’ll chat with the same person each time, so you’ll both have a chance to really get to know each other. You can watch the video to learn how it works.

This program is so fantastic!  If you’ve been looking for a way to volunteer or do some good in the world, this is such an accessible option. There is no cost to volunteer. There’s no special training necessary — if you can speak English, you can volunteer. You can choose a time that’s convenient for you. You’re only committing to a 30-minute spot each week, so it’s not a big time consumer. And you can do it from your own home, so you don’t even need to drive somewhere and find directions and figure out parking. Super easy!

Haiti Partners

Thirty minutes a week is such a small contribution of time, but what a big difference it will make in a young Haitian’s life. I think this would be an amazing thing for families to get involved in. I know my kids would love this, and it’s such an effective way to help children learn how to think about others, and to understand that the statistics they hear about represent actual real people. Beyond families, if you work with teenagers — perhaps in a school group or church group — this sort of volunteer work would be ideal. It would be an opportunity to for them to talk to their peers Haiti. Really, it would be great for anyone.

If you’ve been craving more good stuff in your life, I highly encourage you to sign up. I’m sure you already know how transformative it can be to use your time to do good. If you’d like to volunteer, you can find all the information you need here (click over, then scroll down to see the sign up bar).

P.S. — I’m going to brag about Ralph for a minute. This is a total Ralph project. He filmed, edited, incorporated feedback from Haiti Partners, met deadlines, etc.. He was responsible for the whole project from beginning to end. He did a fantastic job! I’m so delighted with the quality of the video, and couldn’t be happier that he’s using his skills for such a good cause. Gosh it’s fun to be his mom. If you’d like to see more of Ralph’s work, I highly recommend this short French film he made (there are subtitles). It’s super charming!


Call It A Day: Christine Navin

February 23, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photographs by Heidi Selch.

I know firsthand how hard and yet how rewarding it is to find your groove as an expat. There are different languages to master – at least enough to procure what you need at the markets, to say “Thank you” for when it all goes well, and “I’m sorry” for when it doesn’t! – and cultures to respect. There are also the things you’ve left behind and the things you’ve learned to love, and all the frustrating moments in between.

Today, we’re following Christine through her Hong Kong day. She’s learned enough Cantonese and Mandarin to survive, but also leans heavily on drawings and hand gestures and genius apps! She stands firm even when school is pressuring her kids to do more, and is currently plotting a way to kidnap her helper when she returns to the US in a few years. I can’t wait to spend the day with her. Welcome, Christine!

Q: Good morning! How does your family wake up?

A: Our eldest, Joseph, true to his premature start in life, is never late to any party. He is our human alarm, and greets every day with enthusiastic whistling and humming until met with his little sister Stella’s loud disapproval. We do not speak to Stella until our engraved invitations have arrived.

Joseph is our old soul. I know that’s tossed around a lot, but he is. He is intense and detailed. He loves conversations, and will hang on every word you say. He can tell you all the details about the Titanic forwards and backwards. And he can build anything with Legos.

Stella is nine and no longer likes pink because it is too girly. She searches for sticks and rocks while dragging her American Girl, Jessica. We all love Hong Kong, except Stella secretly wishes we could go home to Virginia sooner rather than later as we promised a puppy upon our return. And she already has a name picked out.

We are lucky enough to have a live-in helper, which makes the mornings run very smoothly – although there’s no longer any of that showing up to the espresso machine in a state of undress! Don’t ask how we learned that unspoken rule. Her name is Merly, and she is the master of being there and being invisible all at the same time. She knows what the kids like for breakfast and also helps pack lunches on days when I’ve lost the plot. I was one of those expats who showed up and scoffed at the very idea of a helper, but I appreciate her so much. Real life will be here again soon enough, so I might as well enjoy the life I’m living now!

Q: Can you share a typical breakfast? What are you all discussing this morning?

A: Stella would prefer a daily midmorning brunch at the most leisurely ladies-who-lunch pace versus her quick bowl of Panda Puffs. Meanwhile, Joseph inhales a stack of gluten free waffles. Todd and I sip coffee while alternately begging Joseph to turn down American news on his iPod before Stella starts a revolution.

It’s a funny thing to be expatriated; so many things happen while we’re sleeping, so the morning blast is often too much for any of us to handle. I usually scour the news beforehand so I can preempt any panic.

You’ve got to see Christine’s markets!


A Few Things

February 20, 2015

Blairs at Point Reyes

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Was it a good week for you? I hope so. We have a few things going on at the moment that I’m really happy about. Yesterday, we hired a crew to clear out several dead/ailing trees from our yard. We have wanted to do that since we moved in! We’ve done some fun yard projects so far — like the family swing installation, and the hideaway — but having the trees cleared means we can finally start landscaping in earnest. Yay!

Then, tomorrow, Ben Blair and I are speaking on a panel at the Dad 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. We’ve never spoken together before, but Ben makes everything fun so I already know I’ll love it. And lastly, I have a phone call with my book publicity team today and I think we’re close to announcing the book tour dates and locations. Which is awesome! If you missed the announcement, the book comes out April 7th and is available for pre-order now. A huge thanks to everyone who has already ordered!

My inbox is calling my name, so I better his publish on this, but before I do, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Loved this article, especially this quote: “And, to be clear, there’s no moral component to exercise, no matter what the magazines might try to tell you. You’re not a better person for doing it or a worse person for not.”

Black History in Its Own Words.

- “Trying on” Lent. Are you giving up anything for Lent this year?

- Why doctors die differently.

Hungry hungry hippos in real life.

School is about more than training kids to be adults.

- Have you heard about Every Kid In A Park? Starting this fall, every 4th grader in America will get a one-year pass for free admission to all of our public lands for them and their families.

What ISIS Really Wants. This is looong, but good. It’s the best article I’ve found to help me understand what’s happening with ISIS.

- My teens told me it was time to move on to high-waisted jeans. I’ve been wearing these and I love them!

Getting grief right.

- Lisa Congdon on getting older.

- Want to win a sofa? Don’t miss this giveaway I’m hosting.

- I call wedges “mom heels” — they feel put-together, give me that lengthened-leg look, but they’re easy to run around in. I’ve worn a black pair similar to these for years and I’ve practically worn them out. I need a new pair! (Also, Nordstrom is having a 40% off sale — lots of good stuff.)

I hope you have a terrific weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already!


P.S. — We spent part of last weekend at Point Reyes, where I snapped the photo above. Such a beautiful beach! Looking at the photo reminds me I’m still not used to California weather. It’s an odd thing to spend the day playing in the ocean while my Facebook feed is filled with images of friends shoveling their sidewalks. What a world!


Olive & June 2014-1541

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Here’s the next post in this school year’s What To Wear series, featuring 4 year old June and 13 year old Olive. It’s been an odd week — I intended to post this on Monday or Tuesday and here it is Friday and I’m just finding time. Hah!

Olive & June 2014-1530 Olive & June 2014-1526

My afternoon is filled with meetings and phone calls, but I’m going to publish this now with just the photos, then I’ll come back in later today and add sources and other details.

Olive & June 2014-1511 Olive & June 2014-1521

So be sure to check back in if you’re craving more info.

Five full outfits ahead!


Growing A Family: Gifting Help

February 19, 2015

By Gabrielle. Never Ending Bracelet from The Giving Keys. Such a beautiful company.

Hillary Barton is like most of us, I’d say. Largely independent with a sometimes fierce aversion to being on the receiving end of help. But, as it always seems to happen, on the day that turned into many days of needing it, help found her. Her birth story reminds us that we’re so much more than ourselves in this big old world, and I quite like feeling that reminder today. I hope you do, as well.

Welcome, Hillary!

[click to continue…]


Interior Define9

Photos and text by Gabrielle.  //  This post is brought to you by Interior Define — find the epic giveaway, plus a discount code below.

Okay you guys. If you are couch shopping these days, you definitely need to check out Interior Define. Seriously. Interior Define offers a collection of custom sofas and sectionals at exceptional (actually attainable) prices. They can do this because of their online focus, and the fact that they make every piece to order.

Basically, shoppers can customize the size, configuration, material (most pieces are available in 40-60 fabric options!), cushion fill, and legs on almost every piece of furniture, so they can get exactly what they want. And because buying furniture online can be intimidating, Interior Define offers complimentary fabric swatches, too.

Interior Define8 Interior Define3 Interior Define5

I ordered a whole bunch of fabric swatches, furniture info cards, and even two throw pillows, so that I could see what the ordering experience is like, and it’s easy as pie. The order came quickly, the swatches are high quality, and the furniture cards really helped — they keep all the pertinent info front and center so it’s easy to compare options. I also love that on the website, you can see many of the sofas in real settings to get a better idea of their style and proportions.

Interior Define7

When you’re on the site, you’ll see a whole bunch of custom options available, but if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, no stress, because additional options are available by phone through the company’s customer concierges, or in person at their flagship Chicago showroom.

Design Mom Favorites Interior Define

If you’d like to see my favorite Interior Define picks, I curated a page just for you right here. Bonus: through March 4th, you can get $100 off any order over $1500! Simply use the code: DM100 at checkout.

Interior Define Sofa    Interior Define Sloan Profile Interior Define Sloan 1

Now to the giveaway! Interior Define is offering 3 Sloan Sofas as the mega prize. That’s right. Three winners will each get a gorgeous Sloan Sofa! And the winners get to choose customization options too. They can choose: 3 sizes — 63″, 67″, or 71″, nearly 60 fabric options, soft or firm cushions, and metal or wood legs.

Interior Define Sloan Blue

To enter:

1) Visit Interior Define and join their email list.

2) Then, pick your favorite Interior Define product, and comment back on this post with the link!

Oh my goodness. Wouldn’t it be awesome to get a beautiful new sofa? And you’ve got three chances! I really hope you win. Good luck!

P.S. — Here’s the giveaway fine print: Giveaway open to continental US readers only. Entrants must register their email address. Giveaway ends 1 week from post date. Giveaway winner will be randomly selected from the comment section, emailed by Design Mom, and announced on Design Mom’s site. Giveaway winners must place their Sloan sofa order by Dec. 31, 2015. Winners’ orders are non-refundable, and not eligible for exchange or store credit.


The winners have been contacted by email. I’ll announced them here as soon as it’s official.

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DIY: Color Coded Towels

February 18, 2015

DIY: Color Coded Towels. Say goodbye to towel confusion in shared bathrooms!

By Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.

When more than one person shares a bathroom, towels become an issue. No doubt you have noticed this as well. You step out of the shower, grab a towel, and realize it’s soggy. Yuck. I do not like sharing my towel, but I get that it’s hard to keep things straight, especially if the towels are all the same color. Happily, there’s a simple solution: add a loop of ribbon — a different color for each person!

Assign a color to each family member (and another color for guests!) and proceed with confidence that next time you grab a towel, you won’t be accidentally sharing it with someone else. Plus, there’s a bonus feature. Instead of towel racks, use wall hooks in your bathroom and use the loops to hang the towels on the hooks. No more towels slipping to the floor! And hooks are space saving too.

DIY: Color Coded Towels. Say goodbye to towel confusion in shared bathrooms!

I generally gravitate toward white towels in the bathroom, but for this tutorial I chose a neutral grey that I thought would both look good in photos and contrast nicely with colorful ribbon loops. Different colors of grosgrain ribbon or cotton twill tape work wonderfully for this project, or you could go with colorful or patterned towels, and then use a neutral colored loop. The choice is up to you!

DIY: Color Coded Towels. Assign a color to each family member and say goodbye to towel confusion in shared bathrooms!

Let’s get started. The towel confusion is over!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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